Elder Maxwell gave a talk, “the Net Gathers of Every Kind,” that is about fellowshipping new Saints.  A perennial theme.

But his talks are always about more than what they are about.

He said, almost as it were in passing:

New arrivals are not asked to renounce their country or that which is good in their culture. All must, however, let go of the things which injure the soul, and there are some such things in every life and in every culture.

The second sentence: Boy, are there ever some such things.  I’m most familiar with the gaping flaws in my own life and in my own culture.  But the flaws in human culture are usually flawed enough that I can see them in the others one too.  Dear Cultures, if you don’t know what your flaws are, write me.

The first sentence: that sentence is the hard one.

New arrivals are not asked to renounce their country or that which is good in their culture.

It is easy enough to be a Saint if you believe that nations and ethnicities and local ties (any sub-universal identity) are secondary and subordinate.  It is easy enough to be a citizen if you believe that all other sub-universal ties and the universal ones too are secondary and subordinate.  What is hard is trying to be fully a Saint and extend full fellowship to all other Saints, while also trying to be fully a citizen and act in solidarity with your fellow citizens above all others as a citizen should.

But we are asked to square that circle.  We keep being citizens of our country and members of our culture when we join the Church.  Same with family life.  Our families neither take full priority over our commitments to the Church, but neither is the family just a unit within the Church.

It reminds me of the counsel the prophets gave in WWII

Echoing the counsel given by President Joseph F. Smith at the outbreak of World War I, the Presidency exhorted members in the armed forces to keep “all cruelty, hate, and murder” out of their hearts even during battle.11

These same principles were incorporated in the First Presidency’s official statement read at the April 1942 general conference. This declaration was a comprehensive and authoritative review of the Church’s attitude on war and was widely distributed in pamphlet form. The Saints were told that although “hate can have no place in the souls of the righteous,” the Saints “are part of the body politic” and must loyally obey those in authority over them.

It was proper, in some sense it was even a duty, for Saints to fight and kill each other.  That is hard counsel.

A certain employer hired three men.  A fellow Saint came to the first man and asked for help.  The first man raided his boss’s till.  Because, he said, my commitment to the Saints is forever, but my relationship with my employer is only temporal.  Another Saint asked the second man for help.  The man refused.  He explained that even if he lent a hand during his off hours, that would tire him a bit and he would give service a fraction less devoted to his boss the next day.  Finally, the third man was asked for help.  He was puzzled what to do.  He knew that it was no answer to his obligations to his boss and to his work to say that he had obligations to his fellow Saints.  And he knew it was no answer to  his obligations to his fellow Saints to say that he had obligations to his boss.  So he prayed.

In current debates, we should never say that the interests of America and her citizens don’t count, or that it is wrong or racist to prioritize those interests in setting America’s immigration policies.  We should also never treat immigrants as a class as enemies–there are Saints among them–we should proceed with compassion and love.  In particular questions where the prophets have weighed in, we can gratefully look to the prophets for guidance.

Other Posts from the October 1980 General Conference, Saturday Morning Session

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